Jo Swinson guide: Liberal Democrat leader's early life and political career


Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson leaves BBC studios in London, Britain, September 15, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Jo Swinson has already made history by becoming the first woman - and youngest person - to lead the Liberal Democrats.

But she will be hoping that her role as leader goes far beyond that as she aims to regain seats in the December 12 general election.

Jo Swinson’s early years

Born in Glasgow in February 1980, Jo Swinson was educated at Douglas Academy in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire.

She went on to study management at the London School of Economics, then moved to Yorkshire after graduating.

There, she worked for Ace Visual and Sound Systems in Thorne, before a brief stint in marketing and PR.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has already made history during her career (Picture: REUTERS/Toby Melville)

Political career

Jo Swinson has shown an interest in politics since her teenage years, signing up as an active member of the Liberal Democrats at the age of 17.

She stood unsuccessfully as candidate for Hull East in the 2001 but did win a proportion of the vote from then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

She unsuccessfully contested a seat in the Scottish Parliament election in 2003 but success finally came two years later when she was elected as MP for East Dunbartonshire - aged just 25.

At that time she was the youngest MP and the first to be born in the 1980s.

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Swinson served as a minister in the coalition Government but was among the casualties of the 2015 election, losing her seat to Scottish National Party candidate John Nicolson by 2,167 votes.

She stood again in the 2017 election and won it back with a lead of 5,339 votes.

Swinson was named as a possible leadership contender that year after Tim Farron stood down but she ran for deputy leader instead.

Fast forward two years and she made history by becoming the first ever female leader of the Liberal Democrats, courtesy of a majority of nearly 20,000 votes over rival Sir Ed Davey.

Jo Swinson with her son Gabriel during the People's Vote march in October 2018 (Picture: John Keeble/Getty Images)

Personal Life

Swinson married former Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames in a humanist ceremony in 2011.

The couple’s first child was born in December 2013, followed by a second in June 2018. In September that year, Swinson became the first MP to take her baby into a Commons debate when she took her second son Gabriel into a discussion on proxy voting.

In September this year, the Lib Dem leader revealed that she was forced to call in the police after threats were made against her child.

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A keen runner, Swinson completed the Loch Ness Marathon in 2007, the 2011 London Marathon and the Stirling Scottish Marathon in 2017.

Through those events she raised money for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and Bloodwise - in 2013 Swinson was hospitalised after suffering an anaphylactic reaction after unwittingly eating a snack containing nuts at a charity cake sale.

Swinson (centre), pictured with fellow MPs Stephen Crabb (left) and and Edward Timpson (right) is a keen runner (Picture: Sean Dempsey/PA Images via Getty Images)

In 2019 she also ran the London Landmarks Half Marathon in memory of her father, who died in 2018 following a 10-year battle with blood cancer.

Swinson was made a CBE in the 2018 New Year Honours for political and public service. She has also written a book, Equal Power: Gender Equality and How to Achieve It.

Key issues

Swinson is an advocate for getting more women into politics, but has opposed positive discrimination in the past.

She has supported measures to tackle climate change, and has also campaigned in the past against excessive packaging - including that of Easter eggs.

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Swinson has supported reducing the voting age to 16 to encourage young people to get involved in politics and has also called for the introducing of a wellbeing index.

When she was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs, Swinson introduced shared parental leave, extended flexible working rights, and fought for the introduction of gender pay gap reporting.

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